AT HIS SIDE

THE LAST YEARS OF ISAAC BABEL

A wife's evocative memoir of the vibrant and creative world of her husband and of the generation of extraordinary men and women whom Stalin destroyed. Although considered one of the masters of the Russian short story in this century (The Red Cavalry and Odessa Stories are his most famous works), Isaac Babel remains relatively uncelebrated outside of Russia. A full-scale biography does not exist. This new volume, by Babel's second (but unofficial) wife, is an intimate, heartwarming, and inspiring account of the years the two spent together in the 1930s up until Babel's arrest and murder in 193940. He clearly possessed both a unique talent and a genius for friendship. He insisted on merriment; his modus operandi was joking, and he even attempted to joke with the NKVD agent who arrested him. His kindness ``bordered on catastrophic,'' and his generosity was notorious. Although enormously well read, he disliked literary discussions and participated in them with only one man, his dear friend and mentor, Maxim Gorki. Pirozhkova also offers an intimate portrait of Babel's interactions with his intellectual compatriots, including both the well-known (Sergey Eisenstein, AndrÇ Malraux) and the obscure. The main criterion for earning Babel's admiration seems to have been giving free reign to one's imagination. Pirozhkova strings together a series of memorable portraits made even more striking by the fact that nearly everyone described was tried and murdered, like Babel himself. This English translation of the second, uncensored, Russian edition of 1989 appears with an informative, if unnecessary, introduction by Frydman. The insightful, engaging text gracefully stands on its own and would have been better served by a glossary of the many artists, intellectuals, and politicians discussed. Pirozhkova has written a moving tribute to Babel's art and his life, as well as to the agony and degrading hardships suffered by Stalin's victims and their families. (photos)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-883642-37-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more